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Online Storage

Online Storage vs. Online Backup

While many services can both store and back up your files with varying degrees of efficiency, most vendors tend to specialize in one of the two functions. It very important to understand the differences between online storage and online backup to decide which most closely meets your needs.

Why Use Online Storage?

While online backup services are designed to back up data located on your local machine and allow you to restore your data whenever it is compromised, online storage services are geared towards users who want to be able to access their files on-the-go from many different locations. Online storage services will host your files online so that you can access them securely from anywhere you have Internet access.

With online backup, you generally download a software client to your computer, set initial protocol for the particular files you want backed up and how often you want a backup to run, and then leave the service alone to run automatically.

With “pure” online storage services, such as Dropbox, you are typically given login information and a shared folder that can be downloaded on any device with Internet access, such as laptops or smartphones. Online storage services, which typically will allow you to add multiple users, are also generally geared for file sharing with friends and colleagues.

Learn more about online backup.


While Dropbox is not the most intuitive service for those seeking a thorough online backup service, they are one of the most popular online storage providers. Read more about why we did not include Dropbox in our online backup reviews and learn more about their online storage service.

Online Storage Features

  • Most online storage services offer free accounts with 2-5 GB of storage space that you can later upgrade to 100s of gigabytes by paying a modest monthly fee.
  • Most online storage services offer smartphone apps for iPhone, BlackBerry and Android that allow you to access and modify your spreadsheets, music, photos, movies, and documents straight from your phone.
  • Online storage services use the same types of encryption to secure your files as online backup services, making online storage just as safe.

Top Online Backup Providers with Online Storage Capability

Some online backup services, such as the ones listed below, may be retooled to operate like online storage services. Online backup services work differently than Dropbox, which offers a simple folder that you drag and drop files into, in that you have to download a backup program on your computer. You can then access your files online in order to back them up on a local device, which, in effect, acts like an online storage service. Although they aren’t “pure” online storage services, online backup services will give you online storage capability, albeit in a slightly different way than Dropbox and with a little less functionality. Many of these providers also offer smartphone apps that allow you to access your files on your iPhone or Android.


We found that IDrive met or exceeded almost all of our Market Standard criteria, making it an excellent choice for those seeking an online backup service with online storage capabilities. IDrive offers a personal plan with up to 150 GB for $4.95 per month. They also offer several professional options that include additional features, such as server backup. We were also pleased with IDrive’s “Restore Wizard” that allows you to restore your files as far back as 30 previously saved versions. IDrive’s only con is their lack of an annual discount.

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Carbonite is a great online backup service with online storage capabilities that offers unlimited storage for a low price. They even offer several comprehensive business plans if you need to back up more than just one computer.  However, unlike many other online backup providers, Carbonite does not offer a free personal account; instead they have a 15-day free trial. Also, Carbonite charges annually rather than monthly, so you are required to pay for a full year of service in advance.  We found Carbonite’s customer service to be high quality and liked their extended phone support hours.

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